What to know about vehicle traction and chain laws in Colorado
When winter weather hits the road conditions in Colorado can deteriorate quickly. For the safety of everyone traversing the roads, the Colorado Department of Transportation can implement passenger vehicle traction and chain laws when the weather turns bad. Additionally, some commonly traveled roads like I-70 have their own set of rules travelers need to be aware of.
When a Passenger Vehicle Traction Law is implemented, it means all motorists are required to either have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle or (for two-wheel drive vehicles) snow tires or all-weather tires with a mud/snow designation. Tread depth on all tires must be at least 3/16″ regardless of vehicle type. Vehicles that do not meet these criteria must carry chain devices or alternative traction devices. All-season tires take over twice as long to stop in winter conditions. They do not meet tire requirements for Traction Law unless they have designated mud and snow ratings (usually labeled on the side of the tire as M+S or M&S). The only way regular All-Season tires are permitted under Traction Law is if the vehicle is AWD/4WD. However, winter tires will take an average of 310 feet to stop a vehicle traveling at 60 mph on snowy roads; All-Season tires will take approximately 668ft.
This law focuses on passenger vehicles, as commercial vehicles have their own restrictions. It is unlawful to proceed when a state highway is closed or to proceed when a restriction is in effect without the required traction equipment. Violators in Colorado will be given a citation, which comes with a $100 fine and $32 surcharge. If a motorist blocks the roadway due to an accident because they have inadequate equipment when a Traction Law or Chain Law is in effect, they could be fined more than $650. According to CDOT for every 10 minutes a vehicle stops traffic, traffic will remain backed up for an entire hour.
If a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law is enacted all passenger vehicles weighing less than 16,001 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) must have tire chains or alternate traction devices (ATD) like an AutoSock installed on two or more drive tires. It is unlawful to proceed when a state highway is closed or to proceed when a restriction is in effect without the required chain/ATD equipment installed. Violators will be given a citation, which comes with a $100 fine and $32 surcharge. That jumps to a $500 fine with a $156 surcharge if a violation results in the closure of one or more traffic lanes.
Commercial Vehicle Chain Laws, as the name would imply, mean commercial vehicles and trucks must have chains.
I-70 is a main thoroughfare into the mountains and winter traffic can be intense, particularly on the weekends. It’s important to know that from Sept. 1 through May 31 a Passenger Vehicle Traction Law is always active on I-70 from Morrison to Dotsero. These updates are meant to alleviate delays and crashes along this corridor during the peak
winter driving season. Electronic signs will notify the public when there are additional closures or restrictions along I-70 in addition to the Traction Law.
You can sign up to receive alerts on your phone or see active closures or restrictions at COtrip.org this site also shows road conditions and is a great resource if you have to travel during inclement weather.
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